The quote in the headline above (“Some times I hate it when what I predict comes true”) is the text of a tweet sent out by former Senator Rick Santorum on December 15. With it, he linked to an article from the Salt Lake Tribune describing the decision by a federal judge to strike down Utah’s criminal penalties for polygamy as unconstitutional.

Santorum was referring to comments he made in the spring of 2003, when the U. S. Supreme Court had before it the case of Lawrence v. Texas, a challenge to laws against sodomy. Just two months before the Supreme Court would overrule the contrary precedent of Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) and declare homosexual sodomy to be a constitutional right in its ruling in the case, Santorum warned,

“ . . . [I]f the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.”

Santorum faced a firestorm of criticism for these remarks—but they were mirrored by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia himself, who wrote in his dissenting opinion in Lawrence,

State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers' validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today's decision; the Court makes no effort to cabin the scope of its decision to exclude them from its holding.

Conservative predictions that declaring a constitutional right to homosexual sex would lead to claims that there is a constitutional right to homosexual “marriage” have clearly come true. Now, we are seeing validation of the slippery slope arguments that redefining marriage for the sake of including homosexual couples would inevitably open the door for further redefinitions of marriage — including the legalization of polygamy. Sadly, as Sen. Santorum suggested, society is beginning to pay the price for failing to heed such warnings, and what seemed shocking a decade ago is facing less and less resistance.

While my musings do not rise to the level of those by a U.S. Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, I have made the same argument — in particular, in my 2004 book Outrage: How Gay Activists and Liberal Judges Are Trashing Democracy to Redefine Marriage (Washington: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2004)

Here is what I said in that book (pp. 102-107), ten years ago:

In most of the debate over homosexual marriage, there are arguments and counter-arguments, charges and counter-charges, thrusts and parries. However, there is one argument against homosexual marriage to which its supporters simply have no answer. Their response, instead, is either to stomp their feet and cry foul, or simply to descend into incoherence.

That is the classic “slippery slope” argument — the insight that applying the principle behind legalization of homosexual marriage would inevitably lead to legalization of other sexual deviations and relationships, such as polygamy, incest, or pedophilia.

The “crying foul” response was demonstrated by the reaction to comments made U. S. Senator Rick Santorum, a Republican from Pennsylvania. On April 7, 2003, Santorum gave an interview to Associated Press reporter Lara Jakes Jordan. Anticipating the ruling from the U. S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of sodomy laws two months later, Santorum warned of the consequences if sodomy was legalized:

. . . [I]f the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within you home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does.[1]

Santorum was immediately subjected to a firestorm of criticism from the media and homosexual activists. His remarks were compared to Senator Trent Lott’s praise of Strom Thurmond’s segregationist presidential campaign. The Human Rights Campaign called them “deeply discriminatory and insensitive.”[2] Columnist Ellen Goodman warned of “the Republican theocracy.”[3] One blogger wrote that “the senator is a vacuous boob prone to outrageous gaffs [sic] and crude outbursts of unvarnished bigotry.”[4]

What no one was able to do was explain in what way, if any, he was mistaken.

In fact, most of these critics failed to even understand his point. In saying that Santorum “equated homosexuality with incest, bigamy, and polygamy,”[5] they were, quite simply, wrong. He was not attempting to “equate” these behaviors on a moral level at all. He was, instead, pointing out that the principles under which people were arguing for the legalization of sodomy would lead, if followed to their logical conclusion, to the legalization of these other behaviors.

If the governing principle that compels the legalization of homosexual sodomy is that “the government has no right to interfere with sexual relationships between consenting adults,” then one would have to conclude that “the government has no right to interfere with sexual relationships between consenting adults” that are bigamous, polygamous, incestuous, or adulterous, either. While there may be a distinction in terms of the average person’s visceral reaction to these respective behaviors, there is no distinction to be made on any basis that is logical and not purely arbitrary.

The same can be said of marriage. If the natural sexual complementarity of male and female and the theoretical procreative capacity of an opposite-sex union are to be discarded as principles central to the definition of marriage, then what is left?

According to the arguments of the homosexual marriage advocates, only love and companionship are truly necessary elements of marriage.

But if that is the case, then why should other relationships that provide love, companionship, and a lifelong commitment not also be recognized as “marriages” — including relationships between adults and children, or between blood relatives, or between three or more adults? And if it violates the equal protection of the laws to deny homosexuals their first choice of marital partner, why would it not do the same to deny pedophiles, polygamists, or the incestuous the right to marry the person (or persons) of their choice?

I had the opportunity to pose this question in a face-to-face debate with Andrew Sullivan, the most prominent “conservative” advocate of homosexual marriage. His response was three-fold:

1) “Marriage in our culture has always been between two persons” (to which I laughed, saying, “That’s our argument — ‘we’ve always done it that way.’”);

2) “Legalizing polygamy would cause a great deal of social disruption;” and

3) “Under a system of polygamy, you would have children who wouldn’t know who their real parents are.”

I could only laugh again and say, “Andrew, you’ve just named all of our arguments against same-sex marriage.”[6]

If the slope is slippery enough, the deconstruction of marriage could lead to some unions that are truly absurd — but, amazingly, not without precedent somewhere. For example, Reuters has reported, “A 25-year-old Indian man has married his 80-year-old grandmother because he wanted to take care of her.” (Local officials did say such a marriage, which took place in a Hindu temple, is illegal, “but they have no plans to take action against the couple.”) The same article, meanwhile, said, “Last June, a nine-year-old Indian girl was married to a dog” (because “a priest told her parents the wedding would ward off evil”).[7] Meanwhile in France, “A 35-year-old Frenchwoman became both bride and widow when she married her dead boyfriend.” And this one was legal — in fact, it required the approval of the French president.[8]

In the more speculative realm, we have a “verbatim press release” that was reprinted by the Washington Post:

The legalization of same-sex marriages may prepare the way for even more radical unions in the future, according to Canadian professor Stephen Bertman. Bertman foresees the possibility of marriage between humans and their household pets or even inanimate objects such as a beloved car or computer. . . . Bertman offers his views on the evolution of matrimony in the March-April 2004 issue of The Futurist magazine.[9]

And let’s not forget that the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2004 went to a play about an East German transvestite titled “I Am My Own Wife.”[10]

But the road to polygamy seems the best-paved — and the most difficult for homosexual marriage advocates to respond to. If, as they claim, it is arbitrary and unjust to limit the sex of one’s marital partner, it is hard to explain why it would not be equally arbitrary and unjust to limit the number of marital partners.

It is also hard for them to address for two other reasons. The first is that there is far more precedent cross-culturally for polygamy as an accepted marital structure than there is for homosexual marriage. And the second is that there is a genuine movement for polygamy or “polyamory” in some circles.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s religion writer did a feature on the “polyamory” movement in 2003. It even quoted Jasmine Walston, the president of “Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness,” as saying, “We’re where the gay rights movement was 30 years ago.” The story also quoted Barb Greve, a program associate with the Association of Unitarian Universalists’ Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Concerns in Boston. Greve, helpfully described as “a transgender person who likes to be called ‘he,’” said, “There are people who want to be in committed relationships—whether it’s heterosexual marriage, same-sex marriage or polyamory — and that should be acknowledged religiously and legally.”[11]

The gay newspaper the Washington Blade has also featured this topic in a full-page article under the headline “Polygamy advocates buoyed by gay court wins.” It quotes Art Spitzer of the American Civil Liberties Union acknowledging, “Yes, I think [Lawrence v. Texas] would give a lawyer a foothold to argue such a case. The general framework of that case, that states can’t make it a crime to engage in private consensual intimate relationships, is a strong argument.”[12]

This argument is already being pressed in the courts. Two convicted bigamists in Utah, Tom Green and Rodney Holm, have appealed to have their convictions overturned — citing the Supreme Court’s decision in the sodomy case as precedent (so Senator Santorum was right). And another attorney has filed suit challenging the refusal of the Salt Lake Country clerk to grant a marriage license for G. Lee Cook to take a second wife.[13]

Make no mistake about it — if homosexual marriage is not stopped now, we will be having the exact same debate about “plural” marriages only one generation from now.



[1] “Sen. Santorum’s Comments on Homosexuality,” Associated Press (April 22, 2003).

[2] Human Rights Campaign, “National and Pennsylvania GLBT Civil Rights Groups Outraged at Santorum’s ‘Deeply Discriminatory’ Remarks” (April 21, 2003).

[3] Ellen Goodman, “The Republican Theocracy,” Boston Globe (May 1, 2003): A19.

[4] Jeffrey St. Clair, “Santorum: That’s Latin for A**hole,” [edited]; Counterpunch (May 1, 2003); online at www.counterpunch.org/stclair05012003.html; accessedMay 23, 2003.

[5] Maureen Dowd, “Chest Banging, Here and There,” The New York Times (April 23, 2003); online at www.nytimes.com, accessedApril 24, 2003.

[6]FordhamUniversity,Bronx,New York (December 3, 2003).

[7] Kamil Zaheer, “Young Man Marries Own Grandmother,” Reuters (March 19, 2004); online at http://news.yahoo.com.

[8] “Woman married dead boyfriend,” Associated Press (February 11, 2004). Online at http://www.smh.come.au.

[9] Richard Leiby with Anne Schroeder, “The Reliable Source: Annals of Puffery,” The Washington Post (March 21, 2004): D3.

[10] Richard Pyle, “Los Angeles Times Wins Five Pulitzers,” Associated Press Online (April 6, 2004); Nexis.

[11] Don Lattin, “Committed to marriage for the masses: Polyamorists say they relate honestly to multiple partners,” San Francisco Chronicle (April 20, 2004): B-1.

[12] Joe Crea, “Polygamy advocates buoyed by gay court wins: Some see sodomy, marriage opinions as helping their cause,” Washington Blade (December 26, 2003): 14.

[13] Alexandria Sage, “Attorney challenges Utah ban on polygamy, cites Texas sodomy case,” Associated Press (January 12, 2004).

 

I will admit to one mistake. Nine and a half years is considerably less than “one generation.”